Three Renaissance puzzles with a cryptographic flavor – Jim Reeds (AT&T Research Labs)

April 6, 1999 all-day

The late 15th century Voynich manuscript is written in an unknown cipher script that has resisted all attempts at reading for 80 years. But maybe it’s really not a cipher at all but a hoax, a madman’s scribbles, written in an invented language, or a written equivalent of glossolallia. The Book of Soyga, studied by John Dee (1527-1608), is a 16th century magic treatise with a hidden mathematical surprise. And Book 3 of the 1500 Steganographia by Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) contains recently discovered hidden cipher messages. Jim Reeds will tell the tale of his adventures with these puzzles.
Jim Reeds earned a BA in 1969 from the University of Michigan, an MA in 1972 from Brandeis, both in mathematics, and a PhD in statistics from Harvard in 1976. From 1977 to 1982 he taught statistics at UC Berkeley and from 1983 to the present worked in the mathematics research center at Bell Labs and (since 1996) its successor, AT&T Labs Research. He has been interested in cryptanalysis since about 1955, in the Voynich manuscript since 1967, and in a vague way, in Trithemius since 1973, but his day job concerns cell phone privacy and authentication.

Center for Language and Speech Processing